With another spring semester come and gone, a class of freshmen will see sophomore year arriving in no time! Yet with a new year at school comes a new set of challenges as well. I still recall believing that I would keep in touch with all of my freshman friends during sophomore year. Little did I know, a summer apart and different fall schedules would turn some “hanging out every day” friends into “hanging out once a month” friends. Now, for those of you freshmen wondering how your social lives will fare next year, allow me to give you some pointers to make sophomore year a social success.
Check out these must-read tips!
1. Go to the Club Fair
Ever year, a new opportunity for friendship and involvement presents itself in the form of the club fair. Yes, the club fair: a time in which the many student organizations of your university put their best foot forward, attempt to catch your eye and invite you to join their ranks. Last year’s club fair at Penn State took place on one of the biggest lawns on campus. Tables lined up for hundreds of feet over numerous rows across it, advertising every kind of club you could think of. In this outdoor convention I could quickly sign up for any club I wished to join and potentially expand my circle of friends instantly.
“I would say definitely go to [the club fair]. Go to a few club meetings and figure out who you can associate yourself with and find out what you like, and then find other people like that as well,” Penn State University sophomore Ethan McLean said.
One benefit to the Club Fair includes the lack of pressure. Most of the clubs advertised do not require much commitment for their first few meetings, allowing for more exploration on your part. You can pop in for one meeting, decide if you like their vibes or not, then leave. If you find a club which doesn’t fit with your weekly schedule, feel free to drop it. Thus, the more student orgs you sign up for, the better off you’ll find yourself at finding your niche, and subsequently a new group to socialize with.
2. Get Social in Class
For some, freshman year provided an opportunity to flex their conversational muscles and relearn how to speak with people post-isolation. Now, with all your first-year jitters and inexperience shaken off, consider getting to know your classmates a bit better. Students in classes contributing to your major can provide you with assistance along the path of your college career. You may also end up meeting someone from an entirely different country interested in the same field as you. While the students in your gen-ed classes may seem random in terms of their age, majors and interests, this only makes for a more exciting experience.
Someone who looks about the same age and year as you may turn out to be a grad student with scores of advice to give. During my freshman year, my first real group of friends came from a massive group chat in one of my gen-ed classes. Due to the class’s zoom-only presentation, somebody created a GroupMe of almost all 200-something students. Out of all of us, 20 spoke up and joked around in the chat more than any of the others. Together, we created an iMessage group chat, and became long-distance friends for nearly my entire freshman year. You never know how you might meet people!
3. Meet your new neighbors
A new year means new digs for all students. Whether that involves relocating to a new dorm on campus or moving into an apartment for (hopefully) a decent price, you likely won’t see the same neighbors as last year. While this thought may appear troubling to some, it also provides an opportunity to meet a whole batch of new people. As to how you’ll meet them is anyone’s guess, but that can be a good thing. Often, your new housing can create some unconventional ways of meeting your neighbors.
“I met all my friends on my dorm floor in the bathroom,” Penn State sophomore Brian Truong said. “Some of them I see at egregious times. I mean, there’s no way that both of us should be up at like two or three in the morning, but here we are. At that point there’s sort of like a camaraderie, like ‘Wow we’re both degenerates, so let’s get to know each other.’”
Assuming your RA doesn’t hold any floor activities or you find yourself moving into an apartment, consider breaking the ice on your floor. Invite your neighbors to a small outing for food or even just to walk and talk. Many halls also have study rooms on each floor, which make for easy and close hangout spots. Remember: your neighbors may also wonder about their newest nearby residents and want to meet them. There’s no telling how you’ll get along; your new best friends could live just several feet away!
4. Get Some Exercise
As a sophomore living on campus, you will finally escape the teenage wasteland of East Halls and move into a new residence area. One side of effect of this change, however, includes a widening of the distance between you and the Intramural Building. On the other hand, this does mean you can now visit a new gym and meet some new people. Whether you just so happen to run into one of your classmates on the treadmills, or someone asks you to spot them while weightlifting, try visiting your nearest gym. You can meet tons of people there.
Students living in South or Pollock Halls will find the White Building as their closest gymnasium. For those of you in the West Halls, the Hepper Fitness Center in the Rec Hall awaits just across Burrowes Road. Students living in North get the distinct privilege/punishment (your choice) of not living near any of the gyms. Perhaps consider the walk to your gym of choice as an opportunity to exercise on your way to exercise. If nothing else, you’ll at least get to burn some calories and gain some gains.
5. Rush Greek Life
Ahh, Greek life. A university’s only oasis for some and the sum of all fears for others. While the environment and reputation of Greek life may not seem ideal for many college students, plenty of freshmen and sophomores can turn the experience into one of limitless social growth. One can also make a case for the community it builds, and the opportunity to get involved with exclusive events. Whatever the case, your experience with Greek life can go deeper than you expect.
“I don’t know if people are afraid of fraternities and fraternity life. I personally was at first, but I got to know some of the brothers and I got to know a lot of the people that were rushing, and that helped me build a connection. I think anyone should be able to do it,” Penn State sophomore Matthew Mankin said.
While rushing as a sophomore certainly feels less common than rushing as a freshman, that does not make it any less of a valid option. Perhaps your schedule got too packed for you to rush last year. Maybe you were turned off by the concept of Greek Life up until this point. Regardless, time still remains to explore your curiosity. Starting off fall as a sophomore, three full years still remain ahead of you, why not shoot your shot?
One of the benefits of living on a campus with over 500 clubs includes a vast assortment of events happening every week. Every time I walk through the HUB, it seems like I find ads for 10 new events taped to the walls. As a sophomore, you likely obtain a better sense of University Park’s geography and where everything is, as well as what events are up your alley. Try to capitalize on this and reach out to the people you meet in your journeys. They may know about the hottest upcoming event on campus.
Some of the myriad of events on campus include everything from theatre productions to pride parades, to student government meetings to cultural festivals. In fact, just this semester the Penn State Student Programming Association organized a Dominic Fike concert in the HUB! Additionally, Penn State hosts a free music festival just for students at the end of every Spring semester called Movin’ On. This year they somehow managed to nab Jack Harlow to perform a set for students. If you can keep an ear to the ground and find out where and when the hottest events are going down, you’ll undoubtedly find opportunities to expand your connections.
7. Get involved with your Major
Perhaps you seek a method of social expansion that offers both friends AND productivity. After all, you only get a few years at college to expand your resume and experience portfolio, all while likely paying an exorbitant rate for it all. Why not join an organization that furthers your career path? Fortunately, Penn State supports majors of all kinds. Thus, they have plenty of programs that can help you interact with the other students in your college.
“I was in the [master of accounting] program, which I applied [to] sophomore year and joined junior year. That gave me a whole group of friends within my major, which was really nice,” Penn State grad student Colleen McPeek said.
Indeed, as a journalism major, I met plenty of my now-friends through joining the Daily Collegian, one of Penn State’s several news organizations. I also get emailed updates from the administration of the Bellisario College about social events and programs happening in the Comm buildings. To be honest, I probably get too many updates from them (my poor inbox). Thus, consider mixing ambition with friendliness. In addition to furthering your own career, you’ll find it makes reaching the top of the mountain a much less lonely experience.
8. Spice up your Study Spot Catalogue
No matter what year of college lies ahead of you, studying will undoubtedly make its way into your daily routine. Hopefully this year you found some quiet corner that allowed you to be productive. However, with another year of school comes a new opportunity to shake up your study spots! Oftentimes, the same students will join you in studying every day should you frequent the one particular spot at one particular time. Now, couple this with a habit of picking a new study location every now and then, and you’ll certainly meet new people!
Just this year my preferred study spot probably changed at least once a month. I went from studying until much too late in Findlay Commons, to the Willard Building and now the Pollock Commons. Along the way, I became acquainted with several of the people I sat next to every evening. A small and simple change to my evening routine made a large impact in my life. Combine this habit with the fact that Penn State offers limitless study spots across campus, and your social life can see massive growth.
9. Find a Religious Community
For some folks, sophomore year makes for a better time to get involved with religion than freshman year. Perhaps it didn’t fit in your schedule last year; perhaps you weren’t even religious last year. Regardless, Penn State offers several options for those looking to get in touch with their spirituality. First and foremost, student clubs exist for Penn Staters of all religious backgrounds. These clubs range from service orgs to religious study groups, among other types.
“I joined a Christian organization called [Reformed University Fellowship] which is a good group. Within RUF they did a lot of events. They did a lot of [activities] for new people so that [we] got to meet everybody, whether it was meeting new people or older members, and that was fun,” Penn State sophomore Abigail Reffner said.
For those of you looking to learn more about the faiths of others or seeking resources to connect with your own religion, the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center offers plenty of resources! The Pasquerilla website offers tons of information for your religious needs. Its section on “Local Houses of Worship” lists locations for over seven religions. In addition, you can find a list of all the religious student organizations on campus there too. Feel free to stop by the building or email them with any questions.
10. Keep In Touch With your Freshman Friends
My final tip for making the most of your sophomore social life involves maintaining the friendships you already made this year. This may seem counter-intuitive to the concept of “branching out,” but I would argue it is the most important tip of all. Not every event you go to will make for a goldmine of connections and friendships. Not every club winds up becoming your entire friend group. Even the fullest of new friendships can be turn out to be flukes. In fact, plenty of times it can feel like making new friends is downright impossible.
For these reasons, I would recommend keeping in touch with your freshman pals. Disconnecting completely from old friends can seem quite easy in the fast-paced, ever-social world of college. However, just taking the time to text or FaceTime the people who you first experienced Penn State with can certainly pay off. At the end of the day, no matter how little you may talk, your oldest friends will want to hear how you’ve been. They can provide a shoulder to cry on, and cheer from the bleachers as you tackle sophomore year head-on.